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Bettling the deconstruction of belief...


Faith and Reason: A Wholistic Approach

By Ian Hawkins


Recently, I have heard too many stories of Christians “deconstructing” their faith. Deconstruction can be a frightening experience and lead one to lose his or her belief system altogether or alter it in some significant way. I experienced a deconstruction of my faith during graduate school and endured a crisis of faith, mostly due to issues surrounding the Bible’s veracity. Thankfully, I did not lose my faith in Christ.

Why are so many following this treacherous path and leaving Christianity behind? It seems we have entered the period J. Gresham Machen (famous Princeton theologian at the turn on the 20th century) described when he said, “We permit the whole collective thought of a be controlled by ideas which...prevent Christianity from being regarded as anything more than a harmless delusion.”

How can the church respond to this? How can we protect our members from this slippery slope?


Faith Versus Reason

One of the primary factors causing this anxiety and leading to faith deconstruction is the cultural belief faith and reason are incompatible. More generally, our knowledge and understanding of the world is compartmentalized. This idea that faith and reason are incompatible is a product of western thinking, leading many (especially in the sciences) to claim reason is the only way to truth.

Proponents claim on false history that science (reason) and religion (faith) are at war with each other, and the church has been instrumental in stopping science. The dichotomy between the two has led modern man to display a split personality. For example, we claim all men have inalienable rights. This claim is built on the understanding a Creator has given us these rights, yet many deny a Creator.

This leads to hypocrisy of thought. We agree humans have rights, freedom, and purpose. Yet many scientists believe we simply evolved, and our survival as a species is contingent on a struggle with nature and one another.

Scripture does not speak of this dichotomy, although it warns us of the dangers of misplaced faith and faulty human reasoning. For instance, on Mount Carmel Elijah used an experimental test (reason) for faith in the true God for the Israelites, and yet Paul warns us in 1 Corinthians God’s ways look foolish to human reasoning. So, how do we help Christians avoid compartmentalized lives that result in a dichotomous perspective and perhaps the loss of their faith?


Wholistic Discipleship and Sacrificial Community

First, I believe the answer is found in wholistic discipleship. We must disciple Christians to create a robust, wholistic, non-dichotomous faith, and to be able to give reasons behind their faith. This whole-life approach is the approach both Francis Schaeffer and our own Leroy Forlines expressed in their apologetics. Both Schaeffer and Forlines realized the importance of shaping all of life with the gospel.

The best way to defend the faith is by demonstrating the effectiveness of the Christian worldview in all of life. We must help our congregants build their lives on Christ in every area. If Christ is only one part of their foundation, when struggles and doubts come—and they will—it will be easy for them to replace that single Christian pillar with something else. Wholistic discipleship is what we need. Christ should fill Monday through Saturday as well as Sunday—our jobs, our leisure, our dreams, our responsibilities, our families, and our communities.

Second, living out the gospel in a sacrificial community is crucial. Joel Furches and Joan Harmon recently shared their research on conversions of both atheists and Christians. Both types of people, those who converted to Christianity or de-converted to atheism, began the process when they felt their community was not honest with them.

For Christians, this could occur when they first hear about “evidence” for evolution, or they find apparent inconsistencies in the Bible, or they realize biblical manuscripts may differ slightly in some areas—any area where they feel they have been misinformed. This was also true of the atheist conversions to Christianity.

It is important for us to realize when people ask questions, we don’t have to have the perfect answer for them. But we must be willing to give of our time and energy sacrificially, walking alongside them as we search for answers togethers. When they realize their questions have been around for hundreds of years, and sometimes almost two millennium, and good answers are available, they are assured the Christian faith has not duped them.

During my own deconstruction process, this was vitally important. Many people spent time with me. They did not always have satisfying answers, but they were willing to help and were willing to sit with me and wrestle with these questions. Not only did my community demonstrate sacrificial living by walking with me through my struggles, but they also highlighted the contrast between the Christian worldview and other worldviews in the way they lived.

Many who leave the faith do so because the community of believers has hurt them in some way by living in non-Christlike ways. Developing and promoting a wholistic disciple-making strategy in your church and creating a self-sacrificing community modeled after Christ will go a long way toward helping those whose faith is unraveling.

About the Author: Dr. Ian Hawkins is chairman of the Department of Arts and Sciences and Biology program coordinator at Welch College:


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